Chapter 6 Departure for Alcobaça

“Dad, are we still going to Alcobaça today?” I say.

“Yepper,” he answers.

“Good, I was looking it up on Google Map and Wikipedia. It’s a half hour drive from here along the A-8, take the Nazare turn off and go on toward Alcobaça. An excellent place with impressive architecture,” I say.

What I yearn for are dead kings and queens who are buried in the monestary.

“Yah, I know,” he agrees.

Manco Tree
Pinheiro Manço tree

We walk out the front door. There’s a Pinheiro Manso[1], seven cork oak trees, and Pampas grass in the yard that’s more of a park with a wall of one ton boulders. It looks as if the house was part of a castle ruin. It’s white with classic Portuguese yellow trim and an adobe tile roof. There are stone paths throughout the property and a pool!

“See, it’s a FIAT Seicento,” he says as we walked to the car parked in the driveway. As we got in the car, he says, “It’s the same car that we drove around in Portugal with Vick, Trev and Ana.”

“How old is it?” I ask.

“Ana’s parents bought it in 2001. Unlike in Canada it has no rust. But, it’s so old it doesn’t have airbags,” he says.

“No airbags!” I exclaim.

He put it in gear and burned rubber up the driveway.

I yell out, “Dad, you told me it doesn’t have airbags and the driveway gate hasn’t opened yet.”

“Don’t worry, I have it timed,” he says with confidence.

I think false confidence.

“Ana will be mad at the skid marks you left,” I say.

We drive to the traffic circle to get on the highway. Portugal has thousands of traffic circles.

Dad says, “We have more traffic circles or as they call them here, roundabouts, than when I was in England. I have to admit it results in more efficient traffic circulation than with traffic lights in Canada and the U.S.”

“Dad, you cut off that woman! Don’t you know how to drive in a traffic circle?” I say while I grip the overhead hand strap.

We’re making our way to the A-8 motorway. “What does the sign to the entrance mean?” I ask.

“It means no mopeds, no pedestrians, no cows and no horse or donkey drawn carts,” he says.

You’re kidding?”

“It’s necessary here. Ana and I live in an agricultural region. I’ve seen a horse-drawn cart on a highway!”

“Oh, my god!”

“The other day I witnessed a farmer driving a small tractor with his middle-aged wife sitting in a rocking chair in the wagon. They were going around a traffic circle in Caldas.”

“That’s crazy,” I say shaking my head.

We speed up to highway speed.

“You want to go this fast in this car?” I ask.

“The speed limit is 120 km/hr in Portugal. It’s faster than in Canada and the United States. And watch the cars speed by us at 160 km/hr.”

We’re picking up speed and we’re now going 120 km/hr north toward Nazaré, Coimbra and Porto. I can see in the rear view mirror that a black car is going to pass us. Our car shudders with the blast of wind from the passing.

Drive to Alcobaca-4
Dad and me heading to Alcobaça

“What was that?”

“A Mercedes S class going by us at 190 km/hr, I figure. And look how stable it drives. These highways are superb. They’re built similar to the Autobaund[2],” Dad says.

“They’re not built for that speed.”

I turn on the radio and a song starts up after an ad for soap detergent. “This is one of my favorite Portuguese songs. It’s called ‘Não te quero mais’- I don’t want you anymore.” The song plays. “What do you think?”

“It’s OK.”

“I love the video because Vanessa Silva and David Antune have a fight in Portuguese with so much emotion and then they make up.”

“You enjoy that? You’re getting older.”

We take the turn off and wind our way toward Alcobaça.

I ask, “I hope you brought the glasses with you?”

“Sure I brought my sunglasses. It will be bright inside the monastery.”

“Don’t be a dork,” I scowl.

“My, aren’t we grumpy this morning,” Dad says raising one eyebrow.

“OK, I’m sorry. I’m mulling over how fast people drive here and we don’t have air bags,” I make up an excuse.

“When I was twelve, we always drove without airbags. They only introduced seat belts when I was five years old,” says Dad.

“I take it you have the glasses.”



[1] Pinheiro Manso- a type of pine tree, with an umbrella shape

[2] German highways with no speed limits.

Read Chapter 7 The Monastery

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